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CNN CROSSFIRE

Postwar Finger-Pointing Heats Up

Aired July 8, 2003 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson. In the CROSSFIRE: post-war questions and finger-pointing.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Many of us have been asking for the kind of independent inquiry that gets to the bottom of what this intelligence really was.

ANNOUNCER: Do the Democrats really want to know or are some of them just playing presidential politics?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tell me, Mr. Bush, where are those weapons of mass destruction?

ANNOUNCER: We'll ask Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

The White House has confirmed that President Bush got it wrong when he told the world Iraq was shopping for your uranium in Africa. The question is, has he gotten anything right? We'll ask a couple of congressmen, including one who is running for president.

But first, it's our chance to tell it like it is. Here comes the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, one of the first things President Franklin Roosevelt did call for an independent commission to investigate what went wrong, so we could make sure it never happened again. You would think, after the September 11 attacks, George W. Bush would do the same thing. You would be wrong.

After months of trying to stop such a commission from coming into existence, today's "Wall Street Journal" reports that the Bush administration has stalling, stonewalling, and otherwise slowing their work. According to some of the commissioners, these delays mean they will not be able to complete their investigation before the deadline of next May. Why don't they just extend the deadline? The White House doesn't want the report coming out near the election. Gee, what a surprise. We wouldn't want to politicize this thing by actually telling the American people the truth before the election.

All this stonewalling kind of makes you wonder if the White House is more interested in protecting Americans or protecting themselves. And I know the answer, Tucker. They're more interested in protecting themselves.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: That may or may not be true. I do think that the commission, when it finishes its work, will cast dispersions on the previous administration much more than this one.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But I have to agree with you, to some extent, that it is always better to have more information out there. I want to know precisely what went wrong. And I don't think, in the end, the fingers will be putting at this administration.

CARVILLE: Every person in the Clinton administration is ready to testify, ready to turn over everything. Why is the Bush administration so scared of the truth? Because, they know if the truth comes out before the election, that they will be coupled with this insanity.

CARLSON: Another huge conspiracy.

Good news for motorcycle riders in Pennsylvania tonight. If you're over 21 and know what you're doing, you can throw away your helmet and feel the wind blowing through your hair. Amen. The measure repealing Pennsylvania's mandatory helmet laws was just signed by maverick Governor and former DNC Chairman Ed Rendell. He is known for calling things as he sees them, for telling the truth, as he did when he urged Al Gore to stop whining and concede the 2000 election, earning him the undying enmity of many Democrats.

In this case, by siding with working-class motorcycle riders against Volvo drivers, Rendell further alienates himself from the, "Put down that beer, put out that cigarette, buckle your seat belt at gunpoint, kindergarten teachers run amok, nanny state worshipping," liberal establishment. And good for him.

CARVILLE: I think you got a point, but I do think that everything shows that, if you wear your helmet, you're twice as likely to die or be seriously injured. What I don't want to do is have to pay if somebody doesn't have their helmet on and they are on a respirator for the rest of their life. I don't want to have to pay $100,000 for their irresponsibility.

So I think we ought to maybe get these people to sign something saying that, because if people want to act irresponsible, don't show up at the emergency room and expect the taxpayers to foot the bill.

CARLSON: I'm sure you feel the same way about illegal immigrants coming over and using our emergency rooms, too, James.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: No, I don't feel that way.

CARLSON: However, ultimately, ultimately, James, people have to be responsible for their own lives.

CARVILLE: Somebody trying to feed their family is not the same thing as someone trying to act irresponsibly.

I want to talk about a person who has lost his job and doesn't have the Bush economy to blame. That's right. I'm talking about the intellectual godfather of modern conservatism. I'm talking about Michael Savage. This towering giant of our 21st century conservatism was fired by MSNBC because he had this to say to a caller to his show who identified himself as gay -- quote -- "You're one of the sodomites. You should only get AIDS and die, you pig."

Mr. Savage, it's just not fair. You would lose your job, while Rick Santorum, elected by the Senate Republicans to be one of their leaders, gets to keep his. You may be gone from television, but you will not be gone from the hearts, minds and bookshelves and politics of today's right-wingers. They'll always admire you for your stupidity, intolerance and bigotry.

CARLSON: I don't know. I'm never even seen Michael Savage. I'm glad he's gone.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He sounds like a total creep and I'm glad he's off television.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: His book went to No. 1.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... by all your little intellectual relatives out there.

CARLSON: James, if I could just say one thing. What bothers me is the double standard.

So, on November 4, 1994, Nina Totenberg of NPR was on PBS. And she had this to say: "If there's justice in this world, Jesse Helms and his grandchildren will get AIDS from a blood transfusion." Now, that was an appalling thing to say. She was not forced to resign from public broadcast for that.

CARVILLE: She's not the intellectual godfather of modern liberalism.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: No one has even heard of Michael -- who's Michael Savage?

CARVILLE: He's No. 1 on "The New York Times" best-seller list. He is the hero -- he, William F. Buckley, and Ayn Rand are the godfathers of your all intellectual tradition. Michael Savage, just what you all stand for.

CARLSON: Michael Savage, whoever he is.

What if you ran for president and nobody noticed? Ask Democratic candidate Dick Gephardt. A recent online rally for Congressman Gephardt had to be canceled because fewer than five people RSVPed. A few months ago, "The Hill" newspaper reported that Gephardt had raised only $1,000 in the first quarter this year in Iowa, all of it from a grand total of three people. Maybe the next time there is a rally, Gephardt could convince that trio to participate. If each one brought a friend, there would at least be a quorum. That's my advice.

CARVILLE: You know what Gephardt needs to do, is go do these corporate polluters a bunch of favors and raise a bunch of money, like Bush is doing.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: He's too a good man, James, to have the support.

CARVILLE: Do all these things and favors and go shake down

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... like Bush does. Maybe we need somebody in there who has got more ideas and less special interest money and the country will be a hell of a lot better off. I promise you that.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Dick Gephardt, I'm sure, is a decent guy. But as an intellectual leader -- but, look, James, your point is, he is such a great

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: He never had a No. 1 seller. The conservative movement went out and supported Michael Savage, all your friends.

CARLSON: That is so dumb, James. You wouldn't recognize an idea if it got in the shower with you.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I recognized Michael Savage's idea. I recognized Rick Santorum's idea. And I'll tell you what it is. Hating people ain't a new idea. It's been around for a long time. Intolerance is not new. Bigotry is not new.

CARLSON: Rick Santorum is not a hater. More demagoguery. Democratic finger-pointing is the order of the day here in Washington. In a minute, we'll point at the forest instead of the trees. Saddam is gone. He'll eventually be a goner. Is that a good thing? We'll find out. We'll ask Dennis Kucinich how his presidential campaign is going.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARVILLE: Welcome back.

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush said this to the world about Saddam Hussein's nuclear program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARVILLE: Oops. The White House now says this wasn't true, but they didn't know it at the time. Oops again. We now know the Bush administration had been told that wasn't true a year ago, but it went in the president's speech anyway. Are they merely incompetent or covering up? Either way, it's bad news.

Let's ask Arizona Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth and Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who has a vested interest in all this. He's running for president.

CARLSON: Congressman Kucinich, I want to read you a release, a quote from your party leader, Terry McAuliffe, today. This is his take on the White House statement about the uranium from Africa.

Quote -- "Either President Bush knowingly used false information in his State of the Union address or senior administration officials allowed the use of that information. This was not a mistake. It was no oversight and it was no error." In other words, it's a lie and a conspiracy. This is an outrageous statement, completely unsupported, even by the low standards of Terry McAuliffe. Don't you think he ought to retract this and bow his head in shame for saying something totally false like this?

KUCINICH: The real question here is, was it a deliberate lie? We know it's not true, what was said.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: That's right. But that's not what Mr. McAuliffe is alleging. He's alleging a conspiracy.

KUCINICH: This is why we need public hearings, to determine if it was deliberate or not. We don't know that it was deliberate, but we know that it wasn't true.

CARLSON: And the White House admits as much, says -- they issued a statement today. But I want you to address what Mr. McAuliffe says right here. He said there was no oversight and no error.

KUCINICH: Look, Mr. McAuliffe has his opinions.

I have said all along that there is no proof of an imminent threat. There was no proof that there were biological and chemical weapons. And I've said all along they were not able to prove that there was in fact nuclear capability. So now we finally learn there's no nuclear capabilities that were obtained from Niger. That's a very serious matter. And it ought to prompt a lot of discussion in this country, because we went to war based on a lie.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Congressman Hayworth, let me show you what Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the person that, at the behest of the vice president, wanted to find out about this -- our own CIA, the Bush administration CIA sent him over there. And let's see what he had to say about all of this.

This is what former Ambassador Wilson said: "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R), ARIZONA: Gee, I wonder if it was twisted in 1998, when President Clinton said that Iraq offered a clear and present danger to the United States. I wonder if it was twisted when the United Nations said that.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: But I know, Jim, it is political season. And the left is desperately upset that we were able to go in and put an end to Saddam Hussein's regime.

In the old days, it used to be, you guys were for human rights. But now we don't hear a thing about it. And this is why Dennis would make a great president of France, because, if we followed Dennis' advice, Saddam Hussein would still be in power.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I got a great idea. We can settle all this. You can give your speech. I can give mine. Why don't we just have an investigation?

HAYWORTH: As a matter of fact, that's going on.

CARVILLE: And then we'll find out. And call people up there and say, what happened to it? Who knew what when? Let's have an open investigation. Let's get the Bibles out, throw the right hands in the air, and then find out.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: As a matter of fact, there is something called the 9/11 commission. It is in all the papers. You were talking about it earlier.

CARVILLE: Yes, they're stonewalling. No, this is not the 9/11 commission.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: When the stuff doesn't happen according to the left's political

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: ... it's stonewalling.

CARVILLE: Let me get it straight, because this is very important. You would support calling Vice President Cheney under oath to ask him if he received the briefing that he requested? You would support that? If you do, I'm going to

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: I would support all of us taking a good look at what transpired in the 9/11

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: Resist the temptation to play politics.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: We have a presidential candidate here. And I want to get his response.

Mr. Hayworth just alleged that the Democrats are making political hay out of this. Let's take it beyond allegation to a statement of fact. Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington went to Baghdad right before the war, as you remember, took the side of Saddam Hussein publicly on television, had this to say about WMD and the search for them.

"The election is 18 month away. We don't want this to go away just yet. There's plenty of time." In other words, this issue is being used explicitly -- he's admitting it -- by Democrats for political gain. That's embarrassing, isn't it?

KUCINICH: Well, if that were true, but let's go the facts and let's stick to the facts.

CARLSON: He says it.

KUCINICH: The facts are, according to "The New York Times" article that was written by Ambassador Wilson, he said that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction took place. It's a direct quote relating to transactions between Iraq and Niger.

CARLSON: But the White House admits that.

KUCINICH: But wait a minute. No, the White House now -- you have got to go through the whole track here. You have got Secretary Rumsfeld saying on September 18, 2002, that Iraq is pursuing nuclear weapons. On September 19, he said, it has an active program to acquire nuclear weapons.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I actually have the White House statement right here. And I'm quoting from it: "We now know that documents alleging a transaction between Iraq and Niger had been forged." This is from the White House of the United States right here.

KUCINICH: Tucker, we went to war based on those

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Actually, we didn't, but I want you to concede that they are admitting that that was wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: The fact that they admit it doesn't...

CARVILLE: I think we have got a chance here to do something. We both agree. You say the Democrats are trying to use this for politics. I say that

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Right.

It's simple. Right now, you have said you would support calling the vice president and everybody in the vice president's office in the White House down to the Hill in a public hearing under oath to find out who knew what when. Is that your position? I can't believe you would have any other position. Can you agree with that?

HAYWORTH: Oh, look, this is what I agree on. Congress is a separate branch of government. We have oversight of all that goes on in the government. That's fine. I just want...

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: It's just like Dennis' previous assertion about Rumsfeld. Guess what, Jimmy? Your former...

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: Hang on. I'm going to go with the facts.

(CROSSTALK) HAYWORTH: Hang on a second, brother Carville. Let me put this in context.

CARVILLE: Why don't you answer my question?

HAYWORTH: Well, let me put it in context.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: No, no. I just want to make sure everybody understands this, folks. You may not remember in the late 1990s when President Clinton appointed the Rumsfeld commission. And the Rumsfeld commission told us that Iraq and Iran and North Korea and all these other folks were going to have nuclear capability

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... answer my question.

HAYWORTH: You ought to be the president of France.

CARVILLE: This man refused to answer my question. You're a big man. You're scared of my question.

HAYWORTH: I'm not scared of your question at all.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: You're scared to death.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Excuse me, gentlemen, gentlemen. Please.

From your Web site -- Mr. Kucinich, this is from your Web site, Kucinich on the issues. The Department of Peace, something you espouse in your presidential campaign. You describe peace as this: "Not simply the absence of violence, but the active presence of the capacity for a higher evolution of human awareness, of respect, trust, and integrity, of peace wherein we all may tap the infinite capabilities of humanity and transform consciousness and conditions," etcetera, etcetera.

I'm wondering what the Department of Peace, as defined there, would have done about Saddam Hussein, who was in the process of killing 1 percent of his population.

KUCINICH: Well, first of all, this show, if it was just -- if this was all about Saddam Hussein, then we could come to an agreement, but it wasn't.

The cause of war was about an imminent threat, weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. So the Department of Peace looks at the world as being capable of creating conditions where war does not become inevitable. And in this case, if we had followed the truth, war would not have been inevitable. And that's the whole point. So why did we go to war? Why did we go to war? We're still there, Tucker. Why did we go to war?

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: ... actually the Department of Appeasement. And that is dead wrong.

KUCINICH: But this is just words, J.D. These are just words.

CARLSON: Gentlemen, I'm sorry. We are going to have to interrupt the words just for a second. We're going to take a quick break.

KUCINICH: Where's the real facts.

CARLSON: And we'll be back in just a moment?

After a quick break, Wolf Blitzer will check the news headlines. And then it's "Rapid Fire," the shortest question-and-answer session in television, which means there will be more than enough time to discuss the Democrats' chances against President Bush.

But first, we have a question for our audience. Before they were elected to Congress, our guests once shared the same profession. We want you to guess what it is. Take out your voting devices. Press one if you think they were both television broadcasters before getting elected. Press two if you think both Dennis Kucinich and J.D. Hayworth were mayors. Press three if you think the profession they once shared was selling cars.

We'll have the results in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time for our "Rapid Fire" segment.

But first, the answer to our audience quiz. We asked the audience, what profession did our two guests, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Congressman J.D. Hayworth, share before they entered Congress? TV broadcast said 12 percent of our audience. Mayor said 61 percent. Used car salesman said 27.

The correct answer, Ms. Hayworth, is?

HAYWORTH: Television broadcaster.

CARLSON: Television broadcaster, got by only 12 point of the population.

HAYWORTH: Many a TV news director said I had a face for radio.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: I know the feeling.

And, Mr. Kucinich, you announced the other day that you will be running not simply for president, but for your congressional seat again. Doesn't that mean you don't think you have a chance to win?

KUCINICH: No, Joe Lieberman did the same thing and he won the election. So...

CARVILLE: The administration said that Iraq had reconstituted nuclear weapons. When do you think we're going to find a nuclear bomb in Iraq?

HAYWORTH: I don't know. But when we do, it is going to be egg on your face and you're going to have to apologize to everybody.

CARVILLE: I'll tell you what.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYWORTH: I think we're going to find weapons of mass destruction. And the day we do, you're going to rue that day playing politics with this issue.

CARLSON: Mr. Kucinich, Willie Nelson has endorsed you. When you become president, what Cabinet position will Willie Nelson get?

KUCINICH: Secretary of music.

CARLSON: Amen. All right.

CARVILLE: Congressman Hayworth, how big do you project the deficit will be this year?

HAYWORTH: I don't know.

CARVILLE: You're a congressman. You don't know how much money you're spending?

HAYWORTH: No, I know how much money is spent. I don't know how large it will be, but in the wake of 9/11 and the fact that we're trying to rebuild our national defense to protect the American people...

KUCINICH: Four hundred billion.

CARVILLE: Four hundred billion? OK, thank you.

CARLSON: Would you, Mr. Kucinich, consider bringing on Ralph Nader as your running mate?

KUCINICH: I have a great deal of respect for Ralph Nader. I worked with him to help save a light system in Cleveland years ago. And I like him. And I hope that I have his support.

HAYWORTH: That means no.

CARVILLE: What Democrat would you like to see get the nomination, Congressman?

HAYWORTH: Well, I don't want to kill Dennis' chance. So I better not say nice things about any of them. The party will do something opposite.

KUCINICH: He and I have a deal. He's going to be my ambassador to France.

CARLSON: Amen.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Mr Kucinich, hasn't Howard Dean cut into your support on the activist left?

KUCINICH: Not at all. Actually, I started his campaign four months ago and he's been campaigning for more than a year. I think you are going to see my campaign continue to rise. I ran second in the Internet primary. And we're gaining support all over the country.

CARLSON: I hope so. We support. Thank you, Mr. Kucinich. I appreciate it.

Mr. Hayworth, thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Thanks.

Next, in "Fireback," one of our viewers suggests a desperate tactic to increase Hillary Clinton's book sales -- not that it has a chance of working.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time for "Fireback," where we invite your comments, and you send them in. Boy, do you.

First up, Aleksei Tereshkova from Grafton, West Virginia, writes: "Dennis Kucinich is the ONLY" -- that's all caps -- "man in the race with real integrity. Perhaps he is the only true patriot left today" -- Dennis Kucinich bearing the weight of the party on his shoulders.

CARVILLE: Of the world, maybe.

CARLSON: More power to him.

CARVILLE: Go ahead. Yes, he did a good job today.

"I am considering getting a second mortgage on my house so I can buy up all the copies of Hillary's book that I can. That way, Tucker can eat his shoes and maybe be quiet for a while" -- John in Philadelphia.

John, save your money. It's already there. It's done. You don't need it.

CARLSON: You know what? I can talk with my mouth full, so it's a moot point.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard (ph) from Princeton, New Jersey.

Isn't President Bush's withholding information from the public a way of protecting national security?

CARLSON: It depends what information that it is. If it's information that casts light on methods of intelligence gathering, sure. But I think there's an expectation that the president is going to be honest. And I think he has been honest.

CARVILLE: I don't share that expectation. But if there was a way you could get like a retired judge known for his integrity to review the stuff and -- to see if it actually is national security. I have never seen -- I have seen very few instances where more knowledge has been harmful. Let's know everything. And that way, we can know and make our decision.

CARLSON: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Gordon (ph) from Pennsylvania.

How will the issue of WMDs in Iraq affect the future of the Bush presidency?

CARLSON: Well, I think it will be only in the very long term that it will affect the perception of the Bush presidency. I don't even think -- even Terry McAuliffe, even James Carville is not going to attack the president for not having found WMD. I think all of us are sort of expecting they will be found.

CARVILLE: Well, yes. I think it's idiotic that they had nuclear weapons. I don't think we will ever find that. But if they find chemical weapons, I don't know. I suspect that they might have them.

I don't know think they were ever an imminent threat to us. I think the threat was twisted and exaggerated, just like Ambassador Wilson said, which is a horrendous to make against an administration, that they twisted and exaggerated facts to get us into war.

CARLSON: OK. Of course, there's never an explanation for why the president would want to do that.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: From the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.

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